Thursday, 24 November 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab P1000, More Than Just A Large Android Handset?

Samsung Galaxy TabSamsung Galaxy TabT
he Apple iPad has been in need of some ‘wing clipping’ for some time now. Even though it might not be available here legitimately, it’s still one hell of a popular device. Samsung’s highly anticipated Galaxy Tab actually managed to get itself here legally before Apple’s iPad, and brought with it quite a bit of confusion when it comes to choice. The Dell Streak didn’t impress me and I had my doubts about the Olive Pad, the only two other tablets in India to make it out in an official capacity. I was sceptical about the Tab and after using it for the last few days, here’s my take on the whole ‘Tabbing’ experience. 

Form Factor
I believe that the 7-inch display, protected by the hardcore Gorilla Glass pane with a 600 x 1024 pixel resolution is about the right size for a tablet. It allows for easy handling and storage. While it slips very easily in your rear pocket it’s not really the place you ought to carry it. Samsung’s gone with a set of touch sensitive keys below the display. At 380 grams it’s just a tad on the heavy side with a screen lock/power button on the same side as the volume/zoom keys, micro SD card port (1GB on board memory with support for 32GB cards) and standard SIM card slot. The 3.5mm handsfree socket is located on the top.

It's a pretty streamlined device

A set of built on speakers which seemed loud enough for audio but oddly low for calls, are located at the bottom on either side of the proprietary Samsung USB/Charger port at the bottom. This was the first thing I disliked about the device. No standard USB charging or connectivity provided. However all in all, the Tab is not hard on the eyes and makes for a compelling argument that perhaps the iPad too could have been just a wee bit more manageable in terms of size. Aesthetically I found the Tab an easy device to work with purely from the design perspective.

It's slim and can slip right into your back pocket

Features and Performance 
Interface

I’m not a fan of Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, the icons and colors just don’t bode well with me, so naturally I simply swapped the UI with another I downloaded off the Android market. The Galaxy Tab is powered by an ARM Cortex A8 1 GHz processor with PowerVR SGX540 graphics for added support. It’s running on Android 2.2 aka Froyo out of the box and while most of the UI navigation is quite seamless, there are those moments when you’ll be wondering if there’s is truly a 1 GHz processor running the show.

It runs on Froyo with Samsung's TouchWiz UI

The Three axis Gyro makes accelerometer based functionality from games to screen rotation quite smooth but there’s just that hint of lag that I was talking about. Pinch/multi touch zooming is every bit as responsive as the iPad’s. Samsung’s also thrown in a Task Manager that allows you to kill all background running apps or the specific ones you want. Quite a handy function. Using the normal on-screen keypad was a breeze but Swype on a larger display, although requiring you to stretch quite a bit to trail words, is still a speedier way to get the job done. 

Media
One of the better reasons in the ‘For’ section of the Samsung gadget’s buying guide would have to the media section. Aside from the 5.1 audio channel support, the Galaxy Tab also comes with Samsung’s DNSe audio enhancement with a set of EQ presets and an eight band customizable graphic EQ setting. Audio Effects like Bass Enhancement, Wide and Concert Hall settings are also provided. So needless to say, with a well laid out interface for your music, the Tab’s audio player is sure fire winner. The cherry atop the media functionality section is of course video codec support for AVI files (DivX and XviD) which enables you to simply drag and drop your favorite movies on the ample memory space for instant playback.

Media functionality is the Tab's biggest asset

The Galaxy Tab’s 7-inch display is great for viewing videos and for overall functionality, however games and quite a few other apps are still to be upscaled for this genre of Android devices. Unlike the iPad’s option to stretch iPhone games/apps to fit the screen, the Tab allows you to play or access apps in the native resolution the app as designed for. This means they’ll open only in the middle of the screen. 

There are EReaders galore that come preloaded on the Galaxy Tab. An EBook application similar to Aldiko’s app allows you to import EBooks off of your memory card but I could not find an option to download any books from any built-in site. The fonts and page colors can be adjusted and the overall layout is extremely conducive for easy reading. Here’s where the 1GHz seems to underperform though, changing pages is a slow and laggy process. Even though it’s a matter of a simple swipe the lack of a smooth transition is very evident. 

The Readers Hub application is also an Ebook reader powered by Kobo but one that allows you to download content off the web. A  Zinio magazine reader is also an addition to the app and so is a newspaper reader by PressDisplay. The latter is of course, a subscription service which will need you to create an account and pay subscription fees.Connectivity
The Galaxy Tab, like any self respecting Tablet device, is capable of making and taking calls, messages and sending and receiving emails from your standard POP and IMAP accounts and also plays nice with Microsoft Exchange services. It supports 3G with HSDPA up to 7.2Mbps or typical EDGE speeds for now. Like any Android device that’s running Froyo you can us the Tab as a Wi-Fi hotspot and Samsung’s All Share application allows you to hook up to DLNA supported device to transfer and or stream media. Everything you’d expect from a high end Android handset can be found on the Tab from Social networking with FB, Twitter and Google syncing for your phone book integration to stand alone apps and Google talk. It also supports Google Voice Search and Tethering.

Even with Flash Support the browser was still shy of being overly impressive

The native browser, irrespective of the boost with Flash 10.1 support and everything turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. When I compared it to the iPad’s browsing experience, the Galaxy Tab fell drastically short on speed even though functionality was a bit more. Pages tended to be laggy while scrolling and there always seemed to be a jerky break when moving through screens. Unfortunately, it was s similar experience with Opera’s new beta Mobile browser even if rendering was a lot faster. 

The Galaxy tab also comes with GPS capabilities supported by A-GPS. Samsung hasn’t quite included any software with this device like it would with others namely Route 66 Navigation. You’ll have to stick to Google Maps or use the Layar browser for an augmented reality GPS enabled search. Of course Bluetooth 3.0 and all the goodies that it comes with including A2DP is supported and of USB 2.0. 

Misc. Features 
Like I said, everything you’d expect from an Android handset is available. The Calendar syncs with Google and Facebook to keep track of your appointments, anniversaries, birthdays etc.  It has an Alarm clock, world clock, memo pad, News and Weather aggregaor, ThinkFree office (read only) for accessing MS document files in the drive or via your ThinkFree online account. The Tab can also be used as a Digital Photoframe thanks to a preloaded application.

All features you'd expect from your Android phone can be found on the Tab

Camera

A 3 megapixel autofocus camera with all the trimmings including an LED flash Face and smile detection, a few scene modes, geotagging and video recording – 720 x 480 @30fps are all present and accounted for. A forward facing VGA camera is also present for self portraits and video calling when that gets here. As for image quality I found the pictures to be as good as any 3MP camera out there. Indoor images with plenty of light gave some pretty focused pictures.

Indoor shot

Outdoor images weren’t too bad either although excess sunlight did make certain portions of the image seem a little over exposed.

Outdoor shot
Battery Life
The Galaxy Tab actually managed to dish out a relatively high battery life. With a single charge and using it as my primary device for net and calls, I squeezed out a good two full days of usage out of it. Considering it was my birthday weekend, the calls were pouring in and the average call time it raked in was easily over 4 hours and 40 minutes of just talk time. That’s quite impressive in my book.

Still a bit off from being that perfect secondary connectivity device

The Bottom Line

I’ve become quite the fan of the Galaxy Tab and tabbing in general even though the web browsing or gaming experience was nowhere near as fluid as the iPad’s. However the Rs. 38,000 (MRP) price tag is a bit unnerving. As well rounded a device as the Tab may be, it’s not very well priced. If the price drops to less than Rs. 34,000, I might consider this worth a purchase as a secondary internet device, a replacement to my netbook, but it’ll never replace my trusty handset that does it all in a pocketable size. The accessories for this device are also available and those include a slightly heavy physical keyboard dock and a slightly bare HDMI dock amongst others, none of which are reasonably priced.

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